Pubdate: Thu, 31 Oct 2013
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2013 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Peter Hitchens
Page: 19
Note: Peter Hitchens is the author of The War We Never Fought - The
British Establishment's Surrender to Drugs and is a columnist for the
London Mail on Sunday. He will be speaking at the Festival of
Dangerous Ideas on Sunday.


The hunt for the Mr Big behind the drug trade is over at last. We have
found him. It is you. The urban, educated middle classes of the rich
nations, who take drugs or don't object to others taking them, fuel
the enormous demand for marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Without their dollars, euros and pounds, there would be no billions to
fight over, no gangs, no narcostates or narco-terror.

Yet for some reason, whenever we discuss the alleged "war on drugs",
we never mention demand. There are evil dealers, whom we all deplore.
There are still more evil traffickers and gangs, whom we deplore still

But why are they evil? It is not the acts of transporting or selling
that make them wicked. If it were soap or scented candles, nobody
would mind. It is the thing they deal in. But why are drugs evil?
Because of what they do to people.

And that can only happen if individuals buy those drugs and use them.
It is at that moment that they cease to be inert matter, and do the
damage they undoubtedly inflict.

There is no sense to this. While warships churn the seas, and special
forces of many nations patrol the jungles of the Third World,
interdicting supply, we have, for the past 40 years, refused to
interdict demand. Demand has, unsurprisingly, grown.

To be sure, there are vestigial laws in most advanced countries, which
formally prohibit possession of drugs. But they are sporadically and
feebly enforced by police, prosecutors and courts.

In the US, 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted
"medical marijuana" statutes which, in practice, decriminalise
possession - so fulfilling the 1979 prediction of the American
legalisation campaigner Keith Stroup that "we are trying to get
marijuana reclassified medically. If we do that . . . [we] will be
using the issue as a red herring to give marijuana a good name".

In Britain, the courts were instructed in 1973 to stop sending anyone
to prison for cannabis possession. The police forces recently adopted
an empty gesture called the "cannabis warning" as their preferred
response to finding someone in possession of this still technically
illegal substance. That is, assuming that they act at all. Those who
attend the major British rock festivals expect that the police will
ignore cannabis smoking unless forced to take notice.

This relaxed attitude does not apply only to cannabis. In January
2010, British rock singer Peter Doherty was caught in a criminal court
building with heroin valued at $300. Mr Doherty already had a long
record for drug offences and had just been fined (again) for heroin
possession. Yet he walked free from the building. If this is a "war on
drugs", what would a surrender look like? The cultural background to
this is hugely important. Many respectable newspapers, prominent
political, academic, artistic, and medical figures - even police
officers - have for years called for weaker laws against drugs.

Most of them, unsurprisingly, are members (as am I) of the 1960s
radical generation, the cultural revolutionaries whose long march
through the institutions is now pretty much complete.

They see nothing wrong in a little self-stupefaction; far from it. The
same elite have readily embraced the mass prescription of legal
"antidepressants" and in Britain have removed almost all restraints on
the sale of legal alcohol. They often indulge their own children's
drug-taking. And they have encouraged the approach of "harm reduction"
in schools and health education, assuming that the young will (as they
always put it) "experiment with drugs".

Unsurprisingly, such attitudes, which also deliberately confuse the
legal and the illegal drugs, do not exactly discourage such
experiments. And rather a lot of those experiments end in the tragedy
of irreversible mental illness, increasingly correlated with cannabis
use among the young.

Our self-excused "experimentation" also fuels the tragedies of Mexico
and Colombia. Yet tenderhearted bourgeois-bohemians, who proudly buy
Fairtrade goods and huffily refuse to buy the products of sweatshops,
militantly campaign for the freedom to take and buy the mental poisons
which feed the gangs and bring misery to millions far away.

It is of course a moral question, of pleasure versus restraint, of
chemical stupor versus hardedged discontent with reality, of
selfishness versus self-control. By choosing the hard path, our
civilisation became free, peaceful and prosperous. Do we really think
we can now choose the easy road, and not pay for it?
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